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June 19, 2011

Album Review: DAFT PUNK - TRON: Legacy

In growing up watching movies like Star Wars, Superman, E.T. and Stand By Me, I was always influenced by the music that accompanied them. Movies were an integral part of my learning of different genres e.g. John Williams, Ben E King, Buddy Holly etc. Seemingly the reverse scenario is a more common phenomenon these days…the music often leads me to the movie. Indeed, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo stated that Tron: Legacy "was cut to the music. Usually, composers come in at the end when everything is done."

I have been an avid ‘Daft Punk’ fan since the release of their debut album in 1997, ‘Homework’. Since then, I have charted their progress closely and despite music friends mocking me, I loved their second album, ‘Discovery’ released in 2001. ‘Human After All’ released in 2005 was not of the same high standards and is most certainly the weakest of their ensemble. Songs like, ‘Around the World’ and ‘Da Funk’ from their first album and ‘One More Time’ and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ from their second release are tunes that still resonate with me today - almost a decade on. These two robots in, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are intriguing characters, but they have refused to be robots in the musical sense and continue to push down the barriers.

When I heard that, 'Daft Punk' were scoring the TRON:Legacy soundtrack orchestrated by, Joseph Trapanese, my initial thought was "fits like a glove". First impressions last, this is one of the most listened to albums on my playlist. From the first deep cello string on Overture to the last chord on Finale, this album is gripping and encapsulating. It's operatic in many senses. The sound oftentimes comprises opera like orchestral tones and it succeeds in telling a story via music in the same fashion as ‘La Boheme’ or ‘Don Giovanni’.
‘Overture’ is a dramatic song comprising strings, horns, keys and cymbals in fantastic harmony to provide a beautiful intro and set expectations. 'The Grid' is more of a synthesizer sound with violins creating a frantic feel in the background. 'Son of Flynn' continues in this boisterous beat in the, Jean Michel Jarre like tune.

'Recognizer' is a darker tone with big bass and thunderous drum beats. For some reason puts me in mind of, ‘Massive Attack’. Perhaps the ticking like a clock in the background brings the Attack’s huge hit, ‘Teardrop’ to mind. 'The Armory' and ‘Arena’ continue in this steady theme. ‘Rinzler’ begins with crashing drum beats that suggest a gladiator is about to arrive in the coliseum. Again, fabulous orchestral cello strings accompany this drum heavy, synth-tastic track.

‘The Game Has Changed’ starts off a tad mellower than the prior track, but it’s not long before those crashing beats and techno-tronic sounds reappear. ‘Outlands’ is a strings laden track that, don’t ask me why, has me envisaging, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and, Blitzen careering over the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Strings are again the feature in the beautifully composed, ‘Adagio for TRON’ before, ‘Nocturne’ stems the tide on this sultry, moody half of the album.

For the first 11 tracks Tron: Legacy paint dark and solemn sounds. However, there is no question that Tron: Legacy really gets going when Daft Punk take front and centre in the studio. ‘End of Line’ provides a compulsive synth-riff that repeatedly punches like a heavyweight boxers’ fist in the face. ‘Derezzed’, which was used in promotional materials for the movie, continues to up the ante in dramatic fashion with tarnished synth and teeming beats. ‘Fall’ has a repetitive string piece that mesmerizes before the beautiful ebb and flow of, ‘Solar Sailer’ meanders gracefully on in and puts me in mind of ‘Requiem for a Tower’ (a version of Clint Mansell’s, Lux/Eternal/Requim For A Dream). 

‘Rectifier’ is a chilling, haunting track. Like something from an extremely scary horror movie. It cuts like a knife with high pitched, callous violin. ‘Disc Wars’ goes back to the sounds of, ‘Solar Sailer’ in a quaint little slow burner that continues in to ‘C.L.U.’

‘Arrival’ emotes a sense of both accomplishment and relief in this sleepy track where we know the end of this storyline is nigh and ‘Flynn Lives’ continues this softer, yet dramatic orchestral feel before we race in to the synthesizer heavy, ‘TRON Legacy (End Titles)’ which again has, ‘Jean Michel Jarre’ all over it as far as I am concerned. I am totally fine with that having been gripped by, Jarre’s, ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Equinox’ performances when I viewed them for the first time in high school…so much so, that I got a keyboard myself that Christmas. ‘Finale’ is exactly that and one can picture the end titles rolling up the screen in this satisfactory closer.

The score of Tron: Legacy features an 85-piece orchestra that is intended to be a mixture of orchestral and electronic music. Trapanese seemed content with the finished article of the collaboration of two distinctly different genres – “It seems complicated at the end of the day, but it’s actually quite simple. I was locked in a room with robots for almost two years and it was simply a lot of hard work. We were just together working throughout the whole process and there was never a point where the orchestra was not in their minds and the electronics were not in my mind. It was a continual translation between the two worlds and hopefully we put something together that will be something different because of that.” 

I can’t argue with that, and having been a fan of classic, opera, house and electronic music in various phases of my life, this is an album that works well to combine the diverse elements of each. Rating 8/10


  1. Sure you already have the Tron: Reconfigurations Album. Awesome covers and a great tribute to Daft Punk. I emailed the unreleased track by Tame Impala to your yahoo.

  2. Don't own that one, but have listened to it and it's superb. Thanks for Tame Impala...will give it a whirl.

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